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BMC Plant Biol. 2005 Aug 4;5:13.

New insights into the tonoplast architecture of plant vacuoles and vacuolar dynamics during osmotic stress.

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UMR PME INRA/CNRS/Université de Bourgogne BP 47870, boulevard Gabriel, 21078 Dijon Cedex, France.



The vegetative plant vacuole occupies >90% of the volume in mature plant cells. Vacuoles play fundamental roles in adjusting cellular homeostasis and allowing cell growth. The composition of the vacuole and the regulation of its volume depend on the coordinated activities of the transporters and channels localized in the membrane (named tonoplast) surrounding the vacuole. While the tonoplast protein complexes are well studied, the tonoplast itself is less well described. To extend our knowledge of how the vacuole folds inside the plant cell, we present three-dimensional reconstructions of vacuoles from tobacco suspension cells expressing the tonoplast aquaporin fusion gene BobTIP26-1::gfp.


3-D reconstruction of the cell vacuole made possible an accurate analysis of large spanning folds of the vacuolar membrane under both normal and stressed conditions, and suggested interactions between surrounding plastids. Dynamic, high resolution 3-D pictures of the vacuole in tobacco suspension cells monitored under different growth conditions provide additional details about vacuolar architecture. The GFP-decorated vacuole is a single continuous compartment transected by tubular-like transvacuolar strands and large membrane surfaces. Cell culture under osmotic stress led to a complex vacuolar network with an increased tonoplast surface area. In-depth 3-D realistic inspections showed that the unity of the vacuole is maintained during acclimation to osmotic stress. Vacuolar unity exhibited during stress adaptation, coupled with the intimate associations of vacuoles with other organelles, suggests a physiological role for the vacuole in metabolism, and communication between the vacuole and organelles, respectively, in plant cells. Desiccation stress ensuing from PEG treatment generates "double" membrane structures closely linked to the tonoplast within the vacuole. These membrane structures may serve as membrane reservoirs for membrane reversion when cells are reintroduced to normal growth conditions.


3-D processing of a GFP-labeled tonoplast provides compelling visual constructions of the plant cell vacuole and elaborates on the nature of tonoplast folding and architecture. Furthermore, these methods allow real-time determination of membrane rearrangements during stresses.

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